India Wednesday sharply reacted to Nepal’s new official map that includes disputed territories, saying “such artificial enlargement of territorial claims will not be accepted”. Nepal Prime Minister K.P. Oli said in Parliament that he was going to retrieve the land. Oli also said the Indian strain of coronavirus was more lethal than the Chinese. Army Chief M.M. Naravane had last week, without naming the neighbour, hinted that Nepal’s objection to the inauguration of a road to the Lipu Lekh Pass may have been prompted by China.
ThePrint asks: Nepal map row: Has India provoked Kathmandu or is China instigating trouble for New Delhi?
India has escalated tensions with Nepal and China is party to it
Kanak Mani Dixit
Senior Nepali journalist
This is a clear case of India having provoked Kathmandu. In fact, China is very much a party to this affair, on India’s side.
Nepal has historically regarded the 335 sq km triangle (Limpiyadhura-Kalapani-Lipu Lekh) as its territory, defined by the Sugauli Treaty with the East India Company, which has not been superseded. A bilateral foreign secretary-level committee exists to resolve Nepal-India frontier disputes, and Nepal has been demanding talks for years. Kathmandu had also sought to send a special envoy to Delhi in early December.
South Block has remained unresponsive to all approaches. Instead, India carried out four escalatory actions in a row. First, in May 2015 it signed an agreement with China to use the Lipu Lekh Pass for trade; Kathmandu immediately protested to both New Delhi and Beijing. Second, in November 2019 India published a new map that showed Kalapani within its territory. Third, India’s defence minister Rajnath Singh inaugurated a road link to Lipu Lekh amid Covid-19 and an ongoing political crisis in Kathmandu. Fourth was the statement by Indian Army Chief General M.M. Naravane, implying China had instigated Nepal to lay claims on the area.
We need immediate status quo in the Limpiyadhura triangle to help de-escalation between Nepal and India.
Nepal’s revised map an unfortunate attempt to artificially expand its territorial claims
Former Indian Ambassador to China
I don’t see any provocation coming from India through construction of this road to facilitate Kailash-Mansarovar pilgrimage via the Lipu Lekh Pass. This area has historically been part of India which has been exercising effective control over it.
One may recall that the Lipu Lekh Pass was one of the border passes in the agreement on trade with Tibet, signed by India and China in 1954. In 1962, we closed the Lipu Lekh Pass, but in 1981, under a bilateral understanding with China, Kailash-Mansarovar pilgrimage was resumed through the Pass. In 1991, India and China restarted border trade across the Lipu Lekh Pass under another bilateral agreement. The alignment which our pilgrims and traders have been following for accessing the Pass has been made motorable now.
The Chinese have acknowledged the Lipu Lekh Pass as falling on the India-China boundary/LAC and signed agreements to conduct trade and pilgrimage with India through this pass. Limpiyadhura, which Nepal is now claiming, is on the India-China boundary, rather than Nepal-China boundary.
Nepal’s revised map is an unfortunate attempt to artificially expand its territorial claims. Perhaps this unwarranted move is linked to domestic politics, or it has been made due to nudging by China, or both. I don’t want to speculate. There are reports suggesting that China has been interfering in Nepal’s internal affairs, most recently through intervention by the Chinese ambassador to shore up support for the Oli government.
Nepal Prime Minister K.P. Oli is aggressively playing the China card against India
Executive council member, VIF, and former foreign secretary
Nepal publishing a map that shows Indian territory in the Kalapani area as belonging to it is highly ill-advised. It has created a situation from which it cannot step back. The diplomatic route to a solution has been jettisoned. India has summarily dismissed Nepal’s artificial claims to its territory. Nepal’s decision to
aggressively bring to the fore a sensitive territorial issue, which involves the route to Lipu Lekh Pass and the India-China-Nepal trijunction, is a serious provocation. It touches on India’s defence and security against China.
Nepal citing a new Indian map showing Kalapani in India to justify its decision distorts facts, as Indian maps have always shown this area as Indian. Intriguingly, China had similarly protested when India issued a new map showing changed internal boundaries in the north, after separation of Ladakh from Jammu and Kashmir. This suggests some Nepal-China connivance.
Nepal Prime Minister K.P. Oli, stubborn and unabashedly pro-China, is responsible for this development. He is playing even more aggressively the China card against India, which is an enduring feature of Nepal’s policy. He is mismanaging relations with India by adopting a virulent anti-Indian posture to help him in handling internal
Inappropriate to say China instigating Nepal against India. Nepal has border dispute with China too
Kamal Dev Bhattarai
Political editor, The Annapurna Express, Kathmandu
The Nepal-India border boundary dispute is becoming more complicated with more hardened positions being adopted by both sides. This is because of the lack of negotiations on time. For the longest time, both sides have recognised that there are boundary disputes in Susta and Kalapani. During Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Nepal in 2014, both sides agreed to instruct their foreign secretaries to take up the matter.
In 2015, India and China agreed to boost border trade via Lipu Lekh, without consulting Nepal. Nepal strongly objected to the move and sent diplomatic notes to India and China. China promptly responded, but India remained silent. China said that there was room for improvement, and if necessary, it was ready to revise the India-China agreement. Despite the understanding that it is a disputed territory, India took unilateral steps one after another, from releasing map in November 2019 to inaugurating roads which made matters worse.
The statement made by Indian Army Chief M.M. Naravane last week was totally inappropriate. Nepal is taking up border disputes with China as well. It is inappropriate to say that China is instigating Nepal. Instead, Nepal feels that two giant neighbours, India and China, are taking unilateral decisions on Nepali territory. Nepal has issued the new map Wednesday with sufficient historical proofs in hand, including the Sugauli Treaty of 1816.
As far as Nepal Prime Minister K.P. Oli’s coronavirus remark is concerned, I think he was trying to say that people who came from China and other countries showed mild symptoms, but people traveling from India possess strong symptoms. Still, what Oli spoke about virus and other bilateral issues was inappropriate. Immediate dialogue without any pre-condition is the only way forward.
India, Nepal never worked on the agreed mechanism to solve the dispute. Road ahead only gets difficult
Diplomacy Editor, ThePrint
This is a case of misunderstanding between two friends who share open borders and free movement of people. While most of the border issues have been settled between both the countries, the disputed areas of Kalapani and Susta remained unresolved.
Both sides had an understanding that the issue had to be resolved politically. But that never happened. The matter was kept on the back burner for long, before the Narendra Modi government came to power in May 2014.
The high-level dialogue mechanism, consisting of foreign secretaries of both the countries, to settle Kalapani and other issues was finalised by then external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj during her visit to Nepal in July 2014. This was subsequently committed by Prime Minister Modi when he first visited the Himalayan country in August 2014.
However, the agreed mechanism never saw light of the day. The inauguration of the new road to Kailash Mansarovar and Nepal PM Oli’s statement Wednesday, has left the relations strained. Now, even if both sides meet, as India had promised to meet after the Covid crisis, not much room is left for any kind of compromise or maneuvering.
As relations with Nepal become strained, India is facing additional pressure from China now concerning repeated incidents of scuffles in the border areas.
By Pia Krishnankutty, journalist at ThePrint